Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi Will Respect Public Opposition to Casino Resort

Posted on: October 19, 2020, 10:55h. 

Last updated on: October 19, 2020, 01:37h.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi says she plans to respect the will of the people should they vote to oppose allowing a casino resort in the city.

Yokohama casino integrated resort IR
Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi will follow her constituents’ lead in deciding on a casino resort project for the city. (Image: Asia Gaming Brief)

Yokohama is one of four Japanese cities that have publicly expressed interest in winning one of the country’s three forthcoming integrated resort (IR) licenses. The central government is in the process of finalizing the regulatory conditions that will oversee Japan’s commercial gaming industry.

Hayashi said this week that if a local public referendum comes back with a majority of voters resisting the authorization of a casino, she would embrace the public’s position.

If the referendum as to IR takes place and the majority votes for opposition, [I would] act as in accordance with the results,” the mayor said, as first reported by GGRAsia.

Welcoming casinos in Japan isn’t an overly popular decision among the general public. A poll conducted in early 2020 by Kyodo News found that nearly 71 percent of Japanese voters want the government to revisit their plans to embrace integrated casino resorts.

Public Support Waning

Japan’s mission to bring gambling to the Land of the Rising Sun certainly has not gone as planned. Led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the IR process has endured setback after setback.

COVID-19 has been the biggest obstruction. Domestic and travel interruptions, paired with global economic uncertainty, has nearly stalled the process. This month, the central government confirmed what many already knew: Japan would be forced to delay its IR submission period.

Japan’s central government was scheduled to accept IR proposals from prefectures from Jan 4, 2021, through July 30, 2021. The new end date will be April 28, 2022. No start date has been announced.

“While things are definitely not on track as originally planned for IR development, the same could be said for any other kind of national project under the current circumstances,” said Bay City Ventures Managing Partner Joji Kokuryo to recently.

Along with the coronavirus, a bribery scandal has rocked Japan’s casino ambitions. Two Japanese men were found guilty last week of bribing lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto. The case against Akimoto is ongoing. Prosecutors allege he accepted bribes from the two individuals lobbying on behalf of a Chinese gaming company for inside knowledge of Japan’s workings to legalize casino gambling.

“There have been multiple setbacks, some self-inflicted and some inevitable,” Kokuryo added. “The speed at which the central government can proceed will continue to be dictated by how soon financial, economic, and medical issues are first cleared up.”

Yokohama Referendum

Opposition to Japan’s second-largest city trying to win rights to an IR permit is growing. A coalition looking to defeat such a project has reportedly obtained the necessary signatures to force a city referendum.

Yokohama government officials confirmed last week that a ballot vote on a casino has been triggered, pending the validation of the submitted signatures. However, the Yokohama City Council has yet to say when such a vote might occur.